Travel agent shops in Northern Ireland facing ‘extinction’

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Damian Murphy, Director and Manager of Terra Travel in Portadown, Northern Ireland. Some 100 high street travel agent shops face extinction, their industry body in Northern Ireland warned. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images
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By Michael McHugh, PA

Some 100 high street travel agent shops face “extinction”, their industry body in the North has warned.

Commissions already earned on forward bookings were repaid and staff still had to be paid while earnings during the pandemic plunged.

The Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents (Anita) is pressing for a tailored financial package.

It said: “To date we have had no voice – no-one to represent us at Stormont – and our 100 high street shops now face extinction.”

The association said rent and mortgage payments, electricity and telephone bills all stayed the same while earnings plunged.

It was formed earlier this year to give the outbound travel industry in Northern Ireland a voice.

It represents what it said are very viable businesses which need a financial package to ride out the Covid-19 storm.

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As the pandemic hit in March travel agents remained open to help customers alter holiday arrangements or obtain refunds.

The association said: “We had customers stranded across the world who had to be repatriated – very time-consuming, stressful and costly for us all.”

It said people will need help with the new travel regulations due to the pandemic as well as the strains caused by Brexit.

Travel agents recently met Stormont’s First, Deputy First and Finance Ministers.

They requested a tailored financial support package.

The association said: “We need a six-month extension to the rates relief for our High Street premises.

“We also need a cash grant to help with ongoing bills and simply to keep us in a position to keep trading.

“Our businesses have effectively been forced to close but we have enjoyed none of the support that the hospitality sector, along with taxi and coach companies have been promised.

“We have approximately 50 home workers in Northern Ireland who need a financial package tailored to their needs as well.”

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